The Advertising Booklet
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
BOOKLET is the rather weak term now applied to a great mass of the most useful kind of direct advertising. The word, of course, means a small or miniature book, but its application in the argot of American advertising is now much wider than the name would indicate. Almost every advertisement, except a catalogue, that takes the form of a book, whether it be small and simple or large and elaborate, is called a "booklet." So universal has the use of this word become that the sensibilities of people who publish real books of permanent character are sometimes ruffled by having them referred to by the diminutive name.
But whether we call them small books or booklets, they are here to stay, and they are a most varied and useful part of almost all direct advertising campaigns.
It may be said, we think, that the advertising booklet is primarily informative. There is a vast number of businesses that have no merchandise to sell at all, but deal exclusively in services of one sort or another. Transportation companies, which include all railroads and steamship lines, are a notable example. Yet these companies want people to patronize them by traveling on their lines, and they must create incentives to induce people to travel. How shall this be accomplished? The answer is simple—by booklets, of course. And why? It is quite obvious that any person contemplating travel will consider several things. He will want to know whether he can make the journey in comfort and convenience and, very often, with speed. He will be concerned with the measures taken for his safety. He will wish, if it be a land journey, to know what is to be seen en route, and he will probably want to know a great deal about his destination if he is embarking on a holiday journey.
Now every patron of the common carriers wants almost identical information. It would be an enormous task to convey that information to each prospective traveler in person or by letter, so the obvious thing to do is to incorporate it all in a booklet. Here all the essential information may be set out in attractive form, and pictures may be used just as freely as is desired to enable the prospect to visualize the comfort of the train or steamship, and to give him many glimpses of the unfamiliar scenes that lie along the route or at the end of the journey. Pictures can do for the carrier, and for many other forms of business, what even the most convincing tongue or vivid pen could hardly hope to accomplish. Who can describe the Matterhorn or the Grand Canyon of the Colorado? Yet how many, many times have you seen enough of them, through the art of the engraver, to make you wish to gaze on their glories with your own eyes?
And this suggests the second great advantage of the well-prepared booklet. You may send it to a man in a distant city whom you wish t0 interest. If it makes good in its appeal its missionary work goes on. He will show it to a friend, or perhaps to many friends, with whom he discusses his plans. It will create in the hearts of some of them that strange yearning for new sights and new places that is inherent in all human beings, and was called by the Germans "wanderlust." The solitary traveler may become a large party, all because one small booklet was alluringly done. A few days ago a friend who is the advertising agent of one of the great transcontinental railroads sent to our office a series of the advertisements of his line, They were booklets and folders mainly, descriptive of the company's crack train, western scenery, and the cities and recreations of the Pacific coast. Now a railway journey of some days is ordinarily not appealing, but is rather an inconvenience to be endured for the privilege of reaching the fairy-land beyond. One thinks of the grime and the confinement and the daily deterioration of the immaculate traveler into the bedraggled sloven. But these booklets told of the bathrooms, the barber shop, the beauty parlor and the valet service. There was a description of the library, the club cars, the pleasant teas and the appetizing dinners. These inviting claims were fortified by the evidence of photographs. They gave all of us in our office a fresh vision of the possibilities of railroad travel, and we could see ourselves disembarking at Seattle, clean, rested, well-groomed and well-fed. Nor did the four days across the continent seem a period of pure boredom from which there could be no hope of relief except the end of the journey. Well-chosen pictures suggested that this trans-American journey was the hourly unfolding of a panorama of interesting and often wonderful things. It was a very appealing series of advertisements, creating in the minds of those who received it the desire to see America and, incidentally, establishing the conviction that the most comfortable way to see it was on the line of this particular railroad.
The British railways have been pioneers in good advertising. Sir Lawrence Weaver said, at the International Advertising Convention, that he thought British railroad advertising had done a great deal to increase popular interest in travel and a general appreciation of art among the people of that country.
But travel companies are only one branch of business that has services to sell. Every financial institution of the country comes within the same category, and banks have probably been the most consistent and effective users of booklets in the United States. The beautiful productions put out by the large banks rank so high as artistic and typographical examples that they are almost always preserved, even though they fall into the hands of people who may have no great interest in their contents.
There is one function of the booklet that appeals to every kind of a business establishment, whether it be a carrier, a bank, a factory or a retail shop. If the owners and managers of an establishment have pride in it they will want to convey to the public some impression of the character, spirit, prestige and—shall we say ?— the "atmosphere" of the organization. Institutional advertising is very valuable to concerns that have a creditable past, because it begets confidence, which is the mainspring of much of the world's business. We use a great deal of it in The Beckett Paper Company. We believe that when we tell people that we have been in business in one spot for seventy-eight years, that we have customers who have sent us a check every month of every one of those seventy-eight years, and that the average age of all accounts on our books is almost a quarter of a century, these facts are far more convincing evidence of the desirability of doing business with us than any assertions we may make as to our product. It will be obvious, we think, that people would not have continued to do business with us through whole generations if our goods were not sound.
There is no agency comparable to the booklet for spreading knowledge and understanding of a business. The monumental bank buildings, the "factory behind the product," the glorification of courtesy under the name of "friendliness," are all aspects of institutional advertising, disseminated largely through booklets. Even the substantial personalities of the executive officers may be successfully capitalized. The same spirit has found its way into slogans. Fisk lost no tire sales because he kept adding the phrase that his company was "a good company to work for and a good company to do business with." The thought of a good-natured and fair adjustment could hardly fail to creep into the background of the reader's mind.
How effective are booklets as easy little question answerers, and how many millions of them are constantly going about doing that kind of work at a vast saving of time to the letter-writers in the office back home and to the salesmen on the road! If there is something that every possible buyer wants to know, or should know, about either the construction or use of your product, what better thing can you do than put all this information clearly and attractively into a booklet? If there are forty different ways of using raisins or cooking cream of wheat, and the average house-wife knows only two or three of them, the thing to do is to educate her in the new uses of the product. Recipe booklets have added incalculably to the sales of food products.
To what extent would the sales of clothing decline if the leading makers were to drop their "fashion books," issued in prodigious quantities twice each year? They stimulate the desire for new garments and inform the public as to the seasonal styles as interpreted by the makers. The value of these booklets is best shown by the constantly increasing effort and expense the more successful makers are putting into them. Very expensive artists are engaged, color is freely employed, and substantial cover papers are replacing the more flimsy binding of the earlier editions.
The booklet is the logical supplement to the more formal catalogue. If a maker of motor cars, for example, develops an improvement that is the distinct feature of his car and the leading selling argument, he will produce a booklet emphasizing this special advantage of economy, smoothness of operation, power, or what-ever it may be. His distributors will be provided with these books and will intelligently, quickly and economically acquaint their prospective customers with the special advantages of their car.
Service booklets embodying directions or instructions have a vital place in business. It is important to the manufacturer that his customers be satisfied, and a booklet telling how to use his product most efficiently and how to maintain it so that it will give the longest service is an indispensable feature of many lines of productive business.
Mercantile establishments, such as the great department stores, have occasion to issue many booklets. They have specialized mailing lists, and it may be an advantage to publish booklets addressed to a special class of customers. Some of these booklets are only indirectly selling efforts. The writer recalls having visited the booth of the great house of Wanamaker, at a metropolitan advertising show. The first thing he was handed was a booklet bound in Buckeye Cover and handsomely and solidly produced, containing a detailed method by which young married people could set up a household budget and furnish their homes. In this instance the booklet was supplemented by a model house, showing what was necessary, what it cost, and how it could be prudently acquired by systematic budgeting of the family income. This was a useful social service as well as a fruitful advertisement.
The great cooperative enterprises which are steadily expanding the business of the nation are habitual and intelligent users of booklets. The mills engaged in the production of a certain grade of lumber can, with text and pictures, inform millions of the suitability and economy of their product in house-building, and they can and do stimulate the desire by giving pictures and plans of various types of attractive houses created from their material. Who doubts that the consumption of oranges and prunes has been vastly increased by educational booklets issued by the industry as a whole? The paint and varnish makers have taught the country that it is cheaper to buy paint than to rebuild houses, as well as that it is pleasanter to live in bright and neat surroundings than in the midst of decay.
One might continue indefinitely to elaborate the creative possibilities of the little book for almost every type of business, but we take it that its large and growing use is an evidence that the case is established. The problem of the individual business man is another matter. It is by study and analysis of his own situation and his own market that he can best determine whether he can use booklets to a profit, and if so, what kind of booklets.
The first broad distinction will come to his mind when he considers whether he is selling an inexpensive article appealing to a vast number of people, or a very costly article designed for a limited number of possible buyers. It is quite apparent that a very elaborate and expensive book could not be profitably used in the exploitation of a breakfast-food to sell at ten or fifteen cents a package.
To be effective ' a very large number of books must be used, and the cost of distributing millions of fine books to prospective buyers, whose yearly purchases could not be expected to average more than a few dollars, would be prohibitive. Yet the importer of old and historic rugs which sell at many thousands of dollars each may well be justified in producing a most glorious booklet, describing, portraying and giving the history of these rugs. This book he will send to a small list of persons of wealth or perhaps to a list of per-sons known to be connoisseurs.
A considerable volume of souvenir booklets is always in circulation. One of the earliest examples of really fine printing on Black Buckeye Cover that we recall was such a booklet. Messrs. Henry L. Doherty and Company, some years ago, took a large party of investment bankers on a tour of their oil-producing properties in the central southwest. The whole story of the trip was told in text and pictures, and copies were sent to all who were in the party, as a pleasant reminder of the incidents of their journey. Even the annual company outing may provide the material for a souvenir booklet that will be treasured by the employees who participated, and will tend to make the good-will of the occasion a yearlong memory.
The illustrated stories of successful installations of machinery constitute an interesting sales demonstration and enable a manufacturer to gain reputation legitimately from the prestige of the well-known people who have bought his merchandise. "If Smith's engine or Brown's belting is good enough for the General Electric or Westinghouse to use, it ought to be a safe buy for me," is a common line of reasoning. We recently bought a special type of truck for our own business. We selected it primarily because it seemed adapted to our special service, but we made up our minds a good deal easier when we learned that a great American company had bought several hundred of them through a period of years.
Despite the discredit brought upon it by its conscienceless use by early makers of patent medicine, the testimonial is a powerful advertising factor. It derives its chief authority from the fact that it comes from disinterested sources. If all testimonials that were ever used in business had been honestly obtained, we conceive that their use would to-day be almost universal. But certain revelations as to how Jess Willard, by filling his system with iron, was able to whip Jack Johnson, and in turn lost his crown because Jack Dempsey partook of the same magic nostrum, have still to be lived down. All these things, however, do not destroy the effect on the average mind created by the experience of one's own neighbors. Packard still advises the prospective buyer to "ask the man who owns one." Booklets of authentic testimonials are valuable to almost every business. Mr. A can hardly fail to be interested when he reads that the use of Robinson's stokers has resulted in a saving of ten per cent in the coal bills of his competitor, Mr. B.
Every booklet that is issued must have behind it a definite purpose. If you can think of no specific, advantageous end, much to our regret, we shall have to advise you to issue no booklet. If you are conducting a school it will be quite plain that it will pay you to send a booklet to parents and young people, showing the comfort and beauty of your buildings and the healthfulness of your situation. If you have a summer hotel, you will want to prove its attractions with pictures and description. But if you are conducting a neighborhood store, catering only to your neighbors and acquaintances, you will determine whether you are going to try to expand your enterprise into something more than a purely local business before you will invest in promotional material. That such an expansion is possible to men of vision through direct mail advertising has been proven over and over in American business.
As a complement to general advertising the booklet is in universal use. The general advertisement may create a general interest, but it can seldom be so detailed as to constitute an over-powering selling argument. To change people's habits and to overcome the thing we call "sales resistance" is the supreme test of advertising. If you will go carefully through the advertisements in any national medium you will see that a very large percentage of them suggest that the reader write for a booklet. If by his general publicity the advertiser has induced people to send for his more detailed booklets, he counts his effort a success.
As a booklet is an extended form of advertising, it is freed from the limitations of the mailing card or the general advertisement. It is intended to give complete and satisfying information, and if it fails to do so, it cannot be regarded as a successful production. Therefore, it should be complete and convey all essential information concerning the thing it describes. When a man writes for your booklet he properly expects to get complete information.
It is hardly necessary to say that all care should be given to the problem of making the book readable and interesting. Even though the recipient has a certain interest in the subject matter, he will hardly pursue a long reading, if the text be tedious, de-humanized or stilted. The literary gift of an attractive style is more necessary in the production of booklets than in any other form of advertising, save only house organs.
The appeal should begin the moment the booklet is taken from its envelope—even before. The envelope itself should excite curiosity and interest and, if possible, arouse admiration. The advertising value of an appropriate envelope is discussed more fully in the chapter devoted to envelopes.
The cover is of great importance if the booklet has any pre-tension at all to permanent value. If your production is to rise from the purely ephemeral class of advertising—read to-day and lost tomorrow—it must be well bound. In the manufacture of Buckeye Cover we have given great thought to its suitability for the binding of booklets, and have tried to develop a paper that has all the essential characteristics required in the better class of booklets. There must be adequate protection and durability, of course, and the paper must lend itself well to all manner of graphic treatments. The design should in all cases be tasteful, and very often it may be pleasantly suggestive of the contents. I have just been reading an article in Printers' Ink Monthly by Mr. C. B. Larrabee, entitled "What Should Be on the Booklet Cover?" He makes this general comment: "The first essential is attention value, just as it is the first essential of an advertisement. This is particularly important where a booklet is going to a class of prospects who are the recipients of a large amount of direct mail. The booklet that has no attention value will quietly lose itself in the shuffle, slipping away without raising a protesting voice. Noise is not always the best weapon for getting attention. In looking over a great number of booklets and folders, I was struck forcibly by the fact that some of the most striking covers were the least interesting, while here and there a cover that had on it only a word or two and perhaps a single design, immediately obtruded itself from the general mass of competing matter."
The fight for attention is a large part of the booklet's battle, it is true, and its most powerful allies are a design that suggests quality and responsibility and an envelope that marks the contents as something of more than ordinary interest and value.
The text paper is almost as important as the cover, and it was with a view to supplying a paper suitable for the finer booklets and catalogues, at a cost that would admit of the widest use, that led The Beckett Paper Company to bring out its Buckeye Antique Text papers. These are typical of a group of papers now coming into rapidly increasing use for the better types of work. Effects of extreme beauty may be had upon them. Their interesting antique surfaces and deckle edges, when combined with good typography, give results of the greatest distinction.
The selection of the paper for a booklet will depend somewhat on the character of the contents. If the book is to consist of text only, or if it is to be illustrated with line drawings or woodcuts, or indeed any sort of engravings except fine halftones, an antique paper, such as we have described, may be used to the utmost ad-vantage. Should a small number of fine-screen halftone plates be used, they may be inserted on enameled sheets. Of course, if the book is to contain a large number of plates which will print only on a very smooth surface, the use of enamel throughout is necessary.
The principal argument for the antique papers is their beauty, their non-reflecting quality, and the atmosphere of maturity which they unfailingly suggest. The steady advancement of typography has resulted in an enormous increase in the use of papers of this class.
The binding of books is a distinct branch of the printing industry, but the advertiser will often be called upon to make elementary decisions as to the style of binding of his catalogues and booklets. The manner in which the book shall be fastened together must be determined. The cheapest method is wire-stitching, which is merely fastening the pages together with wire staples cut automatically from a spool of wire. The two methods of wire stapling are called "saddle-stitching" and "side-stitching." In the former method the book is merely opened in the middle and the staples driven through the back fold and clinched in the middle of the book. The cover may ordinarily be fastened on by the same operation if it is trimmed flush with the inside pages.
If the size of the book is such that saddle stitching is impracticable, side-stitching may be used. In this operation the staples are driven through the book or signatures as they lie flat. With modern equipment quite a thick book can be stitched.
Fancy booklets are often tied with a cord through holes punched in the fold or through the sides. In order to insure a certain solidity, however, saddle-stitching is usually resorted to in addition to the cord, which is largely ornamental.
Permanent books are usually sewed, occasionally by hand, but generally by machine. Each signature is sewed to the tape, which acts as a hinge. As permanent books are produced by comparatively few advertisers, it is hardly necessary to go into further detail as to the steps in bookbinding.